Keywords: manners gender dissimilarities, gender differences communication, politeness gender differences

Nowadays the difference between men’s and women’s use of terminology is one of the most crucial research content among sociolinguistic scholars because of this of its importance in communication. Understanding the several communication patterns which people typically use aids interlocutors to reach to better understanding and finally to accomplish effective communication. Numerous studies have been greatly and deeply conducted to come quickly to conclusion that people are dissimilar in the form of interacting and connecting in terms of minimal reactions, turntaking, changing this issue of talk and self-disclosure. Being a obvious feature in cross-gender marketing communications, politeness has started to sketch a great deal of interests from many analysts in the past forty years. Therefore, there’s been an upsurge in discussions, seminars, publications and researches in such domains as word choice, syntax and intonation to portray how dissimilarly women and men use politeness strategies. It is a high possibility that gender dissimilarities in polite habit will lead to inability in cross-sex communication. To get effective communication, audio system need to comprehend verbally politic patterns in several genders well.

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There is a general agreement that girls are more likely to use politeness patterns than men in their conversation. Lakoff, one of many pioneers in this problem, distinguishes women’s talk from men’s talk in these dazzling features like the use of words related with their interests, clear adjectives, question intonation, hedges, hypercorrect grammar and superpolite forms (1975, p. 53-55). Predicated on Lakoff’s commonsense values and stereotypes about differences in the way of being polite between men and women in daily discussions, Montgomery concludes that “women’s speech is more polite than men’s” (1995, p. 151). This state is recognized by a lot of well-known empirical works.

There is a substantial body of evidence assisting the view that, generally, women’s linguistic behavior can be broadly characterized as afliliative or cooperative, somewhat than competitive or control-oriented (Cameron (1985), Kalcik (1975), Smith (1985)) and since interactively facilitative and positive politeness-oriented (Holmes (1984b, 1986), Thorne, Kramarae and Henley (1983)) (as cited in Holmes, 1988, p. 451).

In simple fact, every study makes a marked contribution in building an assumption on the difference between men and women’s speech. To be able to continue forming a definite sociolinguistic picture of gender distinctions in communications, this research is focused on a Vietnamese interpersonal setting. It’ll provide a profound analysis of whether feminine speakers will be more polite than male loudspeakers or not in spanish centers. Within this research, some linguistic politeness devices are targeted to contribute to better understanding about dissimilarities in polite ways of talking between women and men.


Based on the theoretical research in politeness-related distinctions between males and females, this project uses the notable findings as a data elicitation process to investigate the next question:

To what extent do the man and female English learners from the foreign language center of Ho Chi Minh Technology University or college use similar or different politeness devices in daily conversations?


In this small-scale research, 50 male and 50 female audio system aged between 18 and 25 from the spanish center are decided on to answer some questions. The choice is completed through the background questions in the first part of questionnaire given to 100 English learners at the foreign language center. Most of chosen participants are native speaker systems of Vietnamese from different family, communal and educational backgrounds. In details, the majority of objects are university or college students whose level is intermediate. They spend a lot of time studying British because they believe a good command word of English provides a better chance of obtaining a good job in the foreseeable future.


The questionnaire used as the instrument for this job consists of 3 opened-ended questions and 3 closed-ended questions. The reason why the questionnaire is employed and there is absolutely no interview is that they can have significantly more time to think about the answer and give response normally in English. Most of all, in this way, they can avoid sacrificing their face when they come across some difficult situations.

First of all, the open-ended questions contain some common situations in day-by-day communication, namely making compliments and demands. Specifically, every situation requires students to provide two reactions in which the first is for the same gender and the other is perfect for the different making love. It is widely known that the amount of politeness partly depends on many variables including age, social status, and romantic relationship; therefore, two control options are designed for aforementioned speech functions. On top of that, each part is set up to ask the individuals to react to friends or strangers. All of the situations are divided into two main issues.

Topic 1: Situation in which participants give a compliment.

Topic 2: Situation in which individuals ask a person to do a favor.

Secondly, in the closed down questions individuals are asked to rate the level of politeness as well as the consistency of some functions according to their perceptions of using tag-questions and requesting in cross-sex conversations. These multiple-choice questions are created for categorizing and summarizing the results in any significant way.


The data were gathered by using questionnaire used to evaluate the participants’ politeness shows in their daily dialogue. To strengthen the discussion, each question asked them to jot down their reactions in either verbally or nonverbally. There is absolutely no time limitation so that they cannot suffer from enough time pressure.

Presentation and research of data

After collecting the time frame, participants are classified into two main categories in terms of gender. An example may be the male group and the other is the feminine group. Next, under each group, their performance of politeness is analyzed consistent with syntactic composition and lexical items among the same love-making or different love-making interlocutors.

The end result is gathered into three major parts, namely using tag-questions, complimenting, and making complaints.

Tag questions

It is generally recognized that the major grammar function of the tag question is seeking arrangement from the listeners. Besides, tag questions are considered a kind of polite statement in which it generally does not force any agreement or belief on the addressees as with Lakoff’s pioneering research, she concludes that women’s talk sounds a lot more polite than men’s in conditions of linguistic forms like tag-questions and demands (p. 17-19). Therefore, using tag questions is one of linguistic features which this research is primarily concerned to check gender variations in politeness.

The finding of question about the regularity of using tag-questions reveals that men have a tendency to use more tags questions than ladies in communication. The amount of male loudspeakers who often use tag-questions doubles that of feminine audio speakers with 7 and 3 out of 30 respectively. Although the effect is completely other to the explanation of women’s conversation given by Lakoff, one of the most significant pioneers in gender-difference research, that girls are likely use more label questions than men (1975, p. 53). However, it matches with Dubois and Crouch’s unexpected findings that “in at least one genuine interpersonal context, men performed, and women didn’t, use tag questions both officially and informally. Within this context, the declare that tag questions signify an avoidance of dedication, and cause the presenter to give the impression of not being really sure of himself, of seeking to the addressee for confirmation, even of experiencing no views of his own, is open to serious uncertainty (1975, p. 294).

A small number of men and women choose tag questions when interacting with other loudspeakers is that they are not familiar with the framework of label questions. For the coffee lover, the grammatical rules are too complicated and various to obtain in a foreign language as it is a new terminology which will not can be found in their first terms. Actually, Zhang clarifies that faults arising along the way of learning English label questions are induced by students’ incomplete application of guidelines.

In order to produce some sentence set ups, several rule should be used or a rule is used for some different diplomas. But learners sometimes neglect to understand or apply these rules completely. For instance:

She hardly performs with you, doesn’t she? (does she)

I never said she was wrong, didn’t I? (have I)

The learner knows the agreement guideline of building an English tag question. However when there are a few words which denote negative without the word “not”, the learner has some issues in dealing with the whole sentence. Thus he produces the above sentences rather than right ones. (2010, p. 580)

Another reason for low degree of occurrence in using tag questions is the variation of intonations. In English, the intonation on the label questions can determine the function of the label. Quite simply, communicators can transform the meaning of an tag question with the pitch of speech. For instance, with increasing intonation, label questions sound like a real question. Notwithstanding, when the intonation falls they appear to be a affirmation which will not require partners to give a real answer.

If the tag is spoken with a increasing intonation, such as a question, the function of the label is much closer to that of an interrogative. The presenter reveals that he has made an assumption about the state of affairs but he’s not sure as to the validity of that assumption. The listener is wanted to indicate whether the assumption is valid. In the event the label is spoken with a dropping intonation, as in a declarative word, the speaker suggests that he has made an assumption and is also necessitating only confirmation of its validity from the listener (Mills, 1981, p. 643).

In addition to the occurrence of using label questions, there exists a big distance in the reason male and female speakers utilization in daily conversation. The following table presents the effect after looking into how similarly men and women use label question.




Expressing uncertainty









It is obviously seen from the stand that male and female interlocutors have very different purpose in using label questions. While numerous men use tag questions to sign doubt in what they can be asserting and appearance forward to information confirmation, a huge volume of women consider them as facilitative devices and softening tools for negative responses. This finding is the same as Holmes’ synopsis in her research into tag questions as politeness devices. She identifies that “women put more emphasis than men on the polite or affective functions of tags, using facilitative positive politeness devices. Men, on the other hands, use more tags for the expression of uncertainty” (1992, p. 320).

This finding is mainly explained by the most widely-identified difference theory which discloses that “women and men use words for different cultural purposes, having been socialized in several ways from earliest years as a child” (Edwards, 2009, p. 137). In his large-scale study, he clarifies that women’s gossip usually targets personal relationships, experience and problems in a generally supportive atmosphere. They consider the earth as a network of relationships and discussions as discussions for closeness where people seek support and reach consensus. Men, on the other hand, are more concerned with factual information, often in a competitive or combative format. They start to see the world in a hierarchical communal order in which they are located either up or down. For these people, life is a contest and a struggle to achieve and maintain their electric power (Edwards, 2009, p. 137).


In everyday living, there are a huge number of talk acts we can use showing positive politeness like greetings, seeking agreements, steering clear of disagreements, joking and displaying sympathy. Among them, a compliment will serve the function of not only positive politeness strategies but also potential face threatening acts (Holmes, 1988, p. 445). The questions four and five are designed with the intent of measuring how many politeness linguistic habits both male and female speaker systems use when they pay their friends or a stranger a go with.

Response to friends

Response to strangers

From the two above bar charts, generally, women tend to be more polite than men in paying and receiving compliments, which fits with Wardhaugh’s claim that “women are reported to use more polite forms and more compliments than men (2010, p. 343). In details, in the situation where the participants is required to give a go with on the same making love friends’ new clothes, the figure of feminine speakers choosing to compliment within an extremely polite way is four times more than that of male speakers. The ratio of the ex – is nearly 80% and the latter is 20%. They use some compliments such as “It certainly looks good on you, doesn’t it?”, “How very your dress is” and “Just what a pretty blouse you’re using!” as positive politeness devices. Another data is that when they compliment on a stranger’s a set of shoes, men use less polite compliments than women to either the same making love or the contrary sex partner.

The dominance theory is one of all significant explanations of the commonly held perception that women tend to be more polite than men in cross-sex discussions. The relationship between gender-related difference in politeness and vitality has been investigated for days gone by a few ages. After O’Barr and Atkins (1980) explore the complexity of the aforementioned relationship, they find out that the different language features particularly politeness strategies between males and females are related to the status as opposed to the love-making of the loudspeaker. They signify that more females use polite linguistic forms than guys in everyday interaction because they are more likely to be in lower-status positions (as cited in Kendall & Tannen, 2003, p. 549). Thus, in the society women desire to gain higher position; for example public class, job, etc. by using more standard dialect plus more polite forms in day-by-day conversations. Because of this, they are more aware of the importance of linguistic politeness in keeping communication. In short, higher speaker vitality will be associated with lower degree of politeness.

However, it is interesting to find that male individuals use as much politeness linguistic strategies as females when they have a cross-sex talk with both friends and strangers. This means that men have a tendency to enhance more politely to women than to men. In addition to the belief that women’s self-esteem is lower; hence, their face needs to be guarded, “females tend to be more nurturant, more mental, and more delicate to the needs of others than guys” (Bern, Eagly, Piliavin and Unger, as cited in Durkin, 1995, p. 456). That’s the reason why male participants pay a lot more attention to their use of words and speak more politely when getting a talk with feminine partners to avoid the risk of harming their feelings. In this case, gender performs an indispensible part in the decision of polite language forms.


Most sociolinguists extremely appreciate the role of indirect requests in building up the politeness in conversation. Ervin and Tripp, for example, illustrate that it’s ideal for speakers to work with indirect interrogative demands because they give listeners an out by explicitly stating some condition which would make conformity impossible (as cited in Saeed, 2003, p. 234).

In terms of requests, from the above data, not only female participants but also male interlocutors choose using indirect and polite set ups in order to reduce the risk of threatening the addressee’s negative face. “Do you want to please close the entranceway?”, “Won’t you close the entranceway?” and “I speculate if you could be so kind as to close the windows” are being used by over 60% of men and women when they are required to ask a person to do a favour. The finding is partly against the general agreement that female communicators use more superpolite forms than male ones. This end result offers some new insights into how gender influences the way women and men uses politeness strategies.

Therefore, a fresh way of learning the gender difference in politeness-related linguistics is situated in the 1990s. Many recent sociolinguists appreciate the communal constructivist procedure in describing the deviation of politeness patterns between women and men.

A public constructivist procedure shifts the emphasis to language as a vibrant resource used to construct particular areas of social identity at different points in an connections. Social categories aren’t fixed but are at the mercy of constant change; converse itself actively creates different styles and constructs different sociable contexts and public identities as it proceeds. (Holmes, 2001, p. 14565)

Additionally, in her research, Goodwin view activities rather than culture as the relevant unit for the research of the data. She concludes that stereotypes about women’s speech fall apart when chat is set up in a range of activities. In order to construct sociable personae appropriate to the occasions of the moment, the same individuals articulate talk and gender differently as they move in one activity to another (1990, p. 9). In other words, speakers do not hold the same communication style across a wide range of activities. For instance, a female may choose linguistic varieties which can donate to the engineering of a more feminine identification in a date. Nonetheless, in a meeting in the role of an chairwoman, she’ll linguistically construct a robust identity. When getting together with her children at home, she could use linguistic devices with the objective of fabricating a maternal personal information. Therefore, the way speakers use constructions to create proper happenings changes in their communication activities.


It can be plainly seen from the desk that it’s the relationship between your communicators that affects how politely participants speak, not the gender difference. Both men and women claim that they’ll take the partnership into consideration when they make a request (the physique of the past is 56% and that of the latter is 67%). The closer the partnership is, a lot more direct their question is. Their answer is backed by Samovar, Porter and McDaniel’s realization in their 2009 work. They find out that “the closer the partnership between two individuals, the less the energy differential between them and smaller the magnitude of imposition the not as likely it is that they can utilize conversational indirectness” (2009, p. 173).

The implication in a language classroom

All the results of this small-scale study not only validate the previous studies uncovered by numerous celebrated sociolinguists but also show you some new results from Vietnamese spanish classrooms. These interesting findings about the distinctions in politeness use between male and feminine learners lead to some implications for the procedure of language teaching and learning.

The first implication centres on the acquisition of tag questions in classrooms. From survey, a great number of Vietnamese students whose level is intermediate or even advanced hardly use label questions although they can properly manipulate the proper execution, usage as well as intonation when they must do this. Therefore, as an English tutor, a well-prepared demonstration and a lot of intense exercises and drills should be utilized in order to get students to apply them to real life situations. Aside from the basic guidelines, some exceptions and difficulties should be launched to learners so that they give a correct form of label questions in regardless of what conversation they may have.

More importantly, educators should help students acknowledge the importance of the grammar factors in communication. Whenever learners know that tag questions are regarded as an extremely useful tool in daily discussions regardless of their complexity in the varieties, meanings and intonations, they like using tag questions more often. For example, tag questions aren’t normal questions which are used for requesting new information but powerful devices for addressers to verify certain information, express uncertainty, facilitate and soften negative comments.

Last however, not least, owing to the complicated system of label questions, Beardsmore (1970) advises that the teaching should be carried out from a simple to more difficult stage. The difficulties seriously three levels including form, meaning, and intonation. To accomplish an optimistic use of tags, the teaching should pay more focus on basic habits and leave some anomalies to the finish (p. 18).

Another implication for English teaching and learning comes from the new results in complimenting and asking for. It cannot be denied that the gender difference performs an important part in selecting appropriate polite forms; nevertheless, there are other standards such as years, social position, culture and romance which communicators should bear in mind prior to making up their mind to use a certain politeness strategy. Consequently, in their 1985 publication, Tillitt and Bruder recommend that in many cultures it is known as inappropriate to compliment babies within the U. S it’s quite common to state “What a attractive baby!”. In addition, when you are invited to a evening meal in an English family, the coordinator is happy to hear that you appreciate the food. Hence, you should go with the food no subject how delicious the true food is. However, you do not need to go with each dish separately. You can give a general compliment which is followed by a s specific one. For example, the meals was delicious, especially the lamb (p. 68).

Additionally, predicated on many ELT researches into communicative strategies, Canale and Swain summarize that communicative competence involves three components like grammatical competence, sociolinguistic competence and proper competence. Within their well-known work “Theoretical Bases of Communicative Approaches”, they write:

In view of Chomsky’s (1965) strong declare that competence is to be associated only with knowledge of guidelines of grammar, both Hymes (1972) and Campbell and Wales (1970) propose a broader idea of competence, that of communicative competence. This notion is supposed by them to include not only grammatical competence (or implicit and explicit knowledge of the guidelines of grammar) but also contextual or sociolinguistic competence (understanding of the guidelines of words use). Furthermore, Hymes (1972) explicitly and Campbell and Wales (1970) implicitly take up the distinction between communicative competence and performance, where this latter idea refers to actual use (as cited in Canale & Swain, 1980, p. 4)

Therefore, I firmly suggest that the task of coaching and learning either compliments or requests includes three pursuing steps:

  • Teaching and learning some possible patterns used in compliments and demands based on the scale of politeness (from less polite to more polite and then to superpolite)
  • Teaching and learning sociolinguistic competence of the patterns.
  • Practising these habits in real life exercise so that learners can get accustomed to the patterns. As a result, they can use these politeness devices naturally.

Let’s have a clear illustration. First of all, teachers ought to provide learners with the data of demands especially the importance of indirectness of demands in keeping politeness. For instance, the function, whom to question, what to question, how to obtain and how to answer a request have to be presented in various situations in daily life. Next, social knowledge about how exactly and when to work with utterances appropriately should get for Vietnamese learners to acquire sociolinguistic competence. In this way, they can know when to use some superpolite forms or when to use less formal words. After that, they are given some authentic drills to apply how to give and reply to a request appropriately.


In summation, this paper gives a take on politeness gender difference between Vietnamese men and feminine learners. The conclusions make a positive contribution in portraying the picture of both similarity and difference in the manner men and women use polite dialect. It could be figured women aren’t always more polite than men in Vietnamese context. Many interesting insights; for example, “the gender of the listeners is one of critical factors influencing polite behaviours of the speakers” are located in this research. Besides, terms educators can know that Vietnamese students see politeness as a highly effective means of avoiding conflicts and save face in discussions. Last but not least, Vietnamese leaners’ politeness strategies change with the relationship between addressers and addressees. In this case, gender becomes less significant factor affecting the change of interlocutors’ politeness strategies. Because of the result of this paper, terminology planners can learn about their leaners’ communicative competence especially in using politeness linguistic devices along the way of language teaching and learning.